GREENSBORO — The ACC already has outgrown the South and appears to be ready to move its marquee event north.
According to two media reports, the ACC men’s basketball tournament will be played in New York in 2017 and 2018. In a nod to the ACC’s newest members and for a chance at increased exposure with the New York media, the Barclays Center in Brooklyn will host the tournament both years.
Sports Illustrated broke the initial story Friday and The New York Times reported it was a done deal; both news organizations cited unnamed sources.
The ACC tournament is synonymous with the conference’s powerful reputation and has only been played outside the state of North Carolina 11 times in 61 years. It has never gone two consecutive years without being in the state, where the conference’s headquarters are based.
It is set to be played in Washington in 2016, which will be the sixth time it will be played in the metro D.C. area. The conference once was resistant to change and moving the tournament. The first 22 years, from 1954 to 1976, it was played in Raleigh, Greensboro or Charlotte. This week’s tournament is the 25th in Greensboro, where the league’s offices are, the most of any site.
But the conference has grown. Now a 15-team league, the ACC has almost doubled from its original .
Since Syracuse, Pittsburgh and Notre Dame left the Big East in 2013, joining a trio of other Big East refugees who joined the ACC earlier in the 2000s, the league has discussed the possibility of moving the tournament to New York.
The preference among the league’s coaches was to go to Madison Square Garden, where the old Big East had a foothold and the newest version of the conference still has a contract with MSG through 2026.
ACC commissioner John Swofford declined to confirm the Sports Illustrated report Friday but he said the topic “has been discussed and continues to be discussed” in a statement released by the league.
“At this time, the ACC tournament will be in Greensboro in 2015 and Washington, D.C., in 2016,” Swofford said in the statement. “Our schools will determine where it is held beyond 2016, and while we appreciate all of the interest in the future of this great event, we do not have anything to announce at this time, nor will we during the course of this tournament.”
Expansion has been met with some resistance by fans of the traditional schools in North Carolina and Virginia. Moving the tournament north is just the latest extension of the league’s growing pains, not that the idea of an occasional trip to New York isn’t of interest to some ACC fans.
“It might be an adventure, maybe if you went just one time,” said Dean Fields, a University of North Carolina graduate from Charlotte. “But it should be in Carolina.”
The tournament didn’t move regularly out of the state until the 1980s. It was in Landover, Md., or Atlanta every other year that decade and then went 11 consecutive years in Charlotte or Greensboro until 2001.
The atmosphere in North Carolina, with so many fans to draw from in Raleigh, Chapel Hill, Winston-Salem, Durham, Charlottesville, Va., and Clemson, S.C., is part of what made the tournament special.
The Atlantic 10, which holds its tournament in Brooklyn, averaged 6,300 fans in 2013.
“I’ve been to the tournaments in D.C.,” said Scott Herndon, a Virginia fan from Charlottesville. “It didn’t have the same feel, but maybe New York will be good.”
The ACC will have to work a deal with the A-10 to get into the Barclays Center in 2017, according to the New York Times. The leagues have talked about setting up a regular-season schedule between its members as one form of compensation.
Correspondent Kip Coons contributed .